"Monday Mornings" aims to prove there is beauty in every mother's morning, even if we need an outsider to see it. Thanks to a partnership with Allstate, I am flying lifestyle photographer Raquel Bianca across the US to document the morning routines of twelve mothers in five different cities. This is our third stop.
Today's "Monday Morning" features Sara, a working mom who lives in Rolling Meadows, a suburb of Chicago. Her boyfriend Jimmy is a stay-at-home dad who takes care of their two kids during the day (2.5-year-old Ellie and 3.5-month-old Robbie) while Sara works full-time as the registrar at a local college.
"We're fortunate that the kids can stay home with their dad, so I spend my mornings trying to get as many hugs and kisses as I can before I leave for the day."
The family lives in a three-bedroom home with Jimmy's father (who was fast asleep during the shoot), which is not only "filled to the brim with toys" but also cluttered with Grandpa's antiques. “Ellie is so used to it, she never really messes with anything. And now because I said that I'm sure something will break tomorrow!"
Sara and Jimmy have both lived in Chicago their whole lives and although they have talked about moving somewhere else (like Colorado), they can't imagine leaving their extended families.
"My parents rarely go a day without seeing the kids, the same with Jimmy's dad. We're so lucky to have such amazing families for support with the kids that I don't think we'll ever move away…unless the grandparents move, too."
Prior to the shoot, I asked Sara why she wanted to participate in "Monday Mornings".
"I am so immersed in getting ready, I forget to see the mornings for how they really are. In the other shoots you did, I loved seeing the little loving moments and hope those are captured in mine. Or, at least you can capture my son spitting up all over me, so my work knows I attempt to wear clean clothes—it just never ends up that way."
Sarah wakes up at 6:30am to shower before Robbie wakes up hungry at 7am.
Sarah explains how her family's sleep arrangements might be a little less traditional.
"Ellie has slept with Jimmy and I for as long as I can remember and as the baby was getting closer and closer, we decided to go all out and get her a nice twin size bed with a fancy Frozen comforter" thinking that would persuade Ellie to sleep in her own bed. "Well, now I sleep in her fancy bed next to Robbie in his bassinet, while Jimmy and Ellie sprawl out in the other room in the bigger bed."
Sarah cherishes her time breastfeeding Robbie while the rest of the family sleeps. She makes sure to squeeze in "a little snuggle time".
In the morning, Sara is usually more responsible for Robbie while Jimmy is more responsible for Ellie.
"Robbie is usually 'mine' a bit more while Ellie is daddy's girl. I wake up whenever Robbie is up and Jimmy gets up whenever Ellie wakes up. Then we start the morning…as a family together."
Sara says her mornings are unique because she is the only one who has to rush out the door. Since Jimmy stays home and the kids aren't in school yet, "we're able to go with the flow a bit more".
Jimmy is often "running the show" while Sara gets to "concentrate on giving lots of hugs and kisses" before she leaves.
"He's a great dad and I don't often see many guys taking on as much as he does. The kids are able to stay in their pajamas in the morning (and sometimes all day) and aren't rushed to get out the door, which is something I am thankful for."
When they just had one child, Jimmy worked part-time with Sara's dad taking care of Ellie while Jimmy was at work. But with the birth of Robbie, Sara and Jimmy decided it was best if one of them stayed home full-time, rather than trying to figure out arrangements for both kids.
"Since I am pretty well-established in my career, it just made sense for Jimmy to be the one home with them. He is AMAZING with the kids and has an incredible amount of patience."
Sara doesn't like being away from the kids all day, "but knowing they are at home with their dad makes it the best scenario." She adds, "On no-nap days, I don't envy him at all!"
I asked Sara if Ellie was watching TV in the photo above. (No judgments! My kids watch more TV in the mornings than I'm willing to admit.)
"Yes, Ellie was probably watching TV while eating breakfast and I'm sure my mom will kill me when she sees that picture. She never fails to remind me that my brother and I never watched TV as kids!"
Sara explains her family's need for TV time.
"I am able to wake up and go, but Ellie and Jimmy really need some 'wake-up' time. The TV helps ease them into their day. Jimmy gets a chance to have coffee semi-uninterrupted and Ellie gets her dose of Disney. We try to limit TV during the day and at nighttime, so I'm okay with a bit in the morning."
I asked Sara about breastfeeding and pumping at work, since that is a scenario I am very familiar with as well.
"We had a rough start to it and I exclusively pumped for two months, which was a ton of work. I give so much credit to moms who pump because it really is like another job. Now, I love our time together when I breastfeed. In the midst of any chaos, crashing toys and spills, having a few minutes of peace with Robbie breastfeeding and grabbing on to my hand is priceless."
Since Sara is a ten-minute commute from work, she is able to come home for lunch and breastfeed then, so she only has to pump once or twice at work. Still, walking out the door at 7:45am (sometimes 8:45am depending on her work schedule) is Sara's least favorite part of the morning.
Prior to the shoot, Sara described her mornings as "loud, loving, and messy". I asked her how she would describe her mornings after seeing the photos. She replied, "calm, soft and loving".
"I loved seeing the pictures. It's always so interesting to see things from another point of view. Robbie looks more awake than any of us, which is a pretty accurate representation. During this experience, I realized how blessed I am with my family and the set-up we have for our mornings. I get to spend time with my kids and leave them in great hands with their dad."
This post is part of the "Monday Mornings" series sponsored by Allstate. Every family has a special morning routine, and as we continue this journey of documenting different mothers across the country, it's clear that there is beauty in all of our mornings. As the nation's largest publicly held insurance company, Allstate is dedicated not only to protecting what matters most—but to guiding families to live the Good Life, every day.